Even before Apple finally confirmed the pending release of its iPad tablet device, the developer community was already in motion: Developers initiated more than 1,600 new iPhone OS application projects in January according to cross-platform mobile application analytics provider Flurry, almost tripling December 2009 totals and representing the largest single-month spike on record. With the iPad slated to hit retail early next month and pre-orders surging, developer interest continues to escalate--Flurry reported Monday that iPhone OS application starts have jumped a staggering 185 percent since Apple announced the iPad on Jan. 27. "A large proportion of the applications we are seeing are custom ports of existing applications tailored for the iPad," Flurry notes. "With over 140,000 applications in the App Store, developers who modify, or build from the ground up, their applications early on for the iPad may have the opportunity to establish an early presence on this new device and drive more downloads."
With so many developers creating so many new iPad applications, Apple is taking steps to guarantee their efforts don't get lost in the shuffle. The company's website indicates that when the iPad reaches stores on April 3, the App Store will expand to include a new dedicated section that "features apps designed specifically for iPad. You'll find hundreds that make the most of its large display, responsive performance and Multi-Touch interface." The iPad also heralds the introduction of Apple's new iBookstore, and it seems the computing giant is striving to learn from its past mistakes there as well, dividing titles into more than 150 subcategories to improve consumer browsing and sidestep the myriad discovery challenges that hinder the App Store customer experience. According to data released by mobile media research firm Busted Loop, the iBookstore will split ebooks into 20 to 30 top-level groupings, similar to how iPhone and iPod touch applications are organized in the App Store--those groupings will include Fiction & Literature, Reference, History, Cookbooks and Comics & Graphic Novels. From there, the iBookstore divides each category into multiple sub-categories--Busted Loop reports that the Sports & Outdoors grouping alone contains classifications for 15 different sports, while the Computing category is segmented among nine different sub-categories.
It's critical that Apple continue to refine and reformat the App Store, because the developer deluge shows no signs of slowing down. Flurry reports that since the App Store opened for business in mid-2008, more than 35,000 unique companies have released applications, translating to about 58 new firms introducing iPhone apps each day. Among the existing App Store developer population, 20 percent are native iPhone startups founded to create apps for the platform, 22 percent are developers rooted in the online world and 19 percent originate via the videogame industry. Traditional media brands make up 17 percent of App Store developers, and traditional retailers and manufacturers represent another 17 percent--mobile developers who started on rival platforms like BREW and BlackBerry bring up the rear at 5 percent. But Flurry warns that marketing muscle is becoming increasingly critical as discoverability becomes more and more difficult, a trend benefiting established brands, and anticipates that the iPad will further accelerate the entrance of media powers from the news, publishing, television, film and music industries. It's still too early to determine whether the iPad will spearhead a technological revolution, but its impact on the iPhone OS developer ecosystem will be sweeping. -Jason